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CAMERA BACKGROUNDER:
Mohammed Al Dura: Anatomy of a French Media Scandal

Originally published October 13, 2005
Ricki Hollander, Gilead Ini
Source: http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_article=855&x_context=3

Original report: October 13, 2005
Updated: June 15, 2010

2000

Sept. 30, 2000:

Palestinian gunmen and Israelis soldiers clash at the Netzarim junction in the Gaza Strip. A large contingent of foreign reporters, photographers and television crews are present, including France 2 cameraman Talal Abu Rahma. Much of the day’s events are filmed by the various (20 or so) television crews, but only Abu Rahma records what he claims to be Mohammed Al Dura’s death by Israeli bullets. (A Reuters clip apparently captures Jamal and Mohammed Al Dura filmed from a different angle.) He records 27 minutes of footage that day. While France 2 Middle East Bureau Chief Charles Enderlin is not at the scene at this time, he later views Abu Rahma’s clips and accepts the cameraman’s account of events.

Enderlin edits the film and provides the voice-over commentary for that evening’s news broadcast. Only a small portion (55 seconds) of Abu Rahma’s footage is broadcast on the evening news. The footage shows Jamal Al Dura and his son Mohammed huddled behind a thick concrete barrel, gunshots hitting the wall behind them. The footage does not show the child dying.

Correspondent Charles Enderlin comments on the footage for France 2 :
3 pm… everything has turned over near the Netzarim settlement in the Gaza Strip…here Jamal and his son Mohammed are the targets of gunshots that have come from the Israeli position…. A new burst of gunfire, Mohammed is dead and his father seriously wounded.

France 2 distributes the footage – free of charge – to the global media, and it is broadcast around the world.

Oct. 1, 2000:

ABC’s Gillian Findlay also says the boy died “under Israeli fire.” She repeats this language a few days later. Other media outlets make clear that the father and son were caught in the crossfire between Israelis and Palestinians.

Oct. 3, 2000:

Palestinian Cameraman Testifies
Talal Abu Rahma volunteers to testify in a sworn statement to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights the details of what he saw at Netzarim on Sept. 30. He says:
I spent about 27 minutes photographing the incident which took place for 45 minutes…. I can confirm that the child was intentionally and in cold blood shot dead and his father injured by the Israeli army.
(For complete statement, click here.)

Preliminary IDF Investigation
There is no autopsy on the boy and no bullets recovered. After a hurried preliminary investigation, the IDF expresses sorrow over the tragedy, concluding that its troops were probably responsible for killing Al Dura. IDF Major General Giora Eiland says:
There is no way to prove who shot him. But from the angles from which we fired, it is likely that he was hit from our gunfire…. It is very reasonable that they were hit from our gunfire.

While the IDF attempts to put the incident to rest by accepting responsibility for Al Dura’s death, Major General Yom Tov Samia, commanding officer at the time, and other senior officers in the Southern Command are convinced that IDF soldiers have not shot the boy.

October 2000:

Nahum Shahaf, an Israeli physicist, contacts Major General Samia to voice his doubt about Israeli responsibility and offers to collaborate in an investigation of the matter. Samia agrees and the IDF investigates further.

Oct. 23, 2000:

An IDF re-enactment of the Al Dura incident, with the participation of Nahum Shahaf, raises serious doubt about whether the gunfire could have come from Israeli positions. Investigators lay out replicas of the Israeli army position, and the concrete barrel and wall which sheltered Al Dura. Soldiers fire shots at the barrel and wall using a variety of different weapons and study the indentations made by the bullets. Also studied is the dust clouds which result from the wall being struck by bullets from various angles. The shape and size of the clouds is compared to the shape and size of dust clouds in the video of Al Dura.

The re-enactment indicates that based on the location of the Israeli soldiers, the concrete barrel would have prevented Israeli bullets from hitting Jamal and Mohammed Al Dura. The bullet holes and dust clouds in the Al Dura video further indicate that the fatal shots could not have come from the Israeli position, but rather from an area more directly across from the father and son, near a Palestinian police position.

Oct. 25, 2000:

Telerama, a French magazine, publishes an interview with Charles Enderlin in which he explains the brevity of the news clip broadcast of the incident. He asserts:

I cut the images of the child’s agony (death throes), they were unbearable. The story was told, the news delivered. It would not have added anything more…As for the moment when the child received the bullets, it was not even filmed.

Nov. 27, 2000:

IDF releases the findings of its comprehensive investigation into the Al Dura killing. It concludes that Al Dura was likely killed by Palestinian gunfire. States Israeli Major General Yom Tov Samia:
A comprehensive investigation conducted in the last weeks casts serious doubt that the boy was hit by Israeli fire. It is quite plausible that the boy was hit by Palestinian bullets in the course of the exchange of fire that took place in the area.

2002

March 18, 2002:

German television station ARD broadcasts a documentary produced by filmmaker Esther Shapira investigating the Al Dura shooting incident. The film suggests that the boy was more likely to have been hit by a Palestinian bullet than an Israeli bullet.

Sept. 30, 2002:

In a fax sent to France 2 offices in Jerusalem, Talal Abu Rahma contradicts his Oct. 3, 2000 testimony. He states:
I never said to the Palestinian Human Rights Organization in Gaza that the Israeli soldiers killed willfully or knowingly Mohammed Al Dura and wounded the father. All I always said in all the interviews I gave is that from where I was, I saw the shooting coming from the Israeli position.

Oct. 2, 2002:

Thousands of demonstrators gather outside the offices of France 2 in Paris to protest the network’s handling of the Al Dura footage, and its refusal to broadcast Esther Shapira’s documentary. Protesters “award” France 2 the “Prize for Disinformation.”

Nov. 18, 2002:

The Metula News Agency (MENA) requests a meeting with France 2 Director General Christopher Baldelli to discuss MENA’s ongoing investigation into the Al Dura affair. This investigation finds that France 2′s footage of Mohammed Al Dura does not correspond to that of someone mortally wounded by high velocity bullets. Baldelli does not reply.

2003

Jan. 13, 2003:

“Contre-expertise d’une mise en scene” (Re-evaluation of a Staged Event), a book written by French writer Gerard Huber, is published, detailing MENA’s ongoing investigation into the Al Dura affair. The book’s thesis is that the event was staged.

June 2003:

An investigative article by James Fallows is published in the Atlantic Monthly. Fallows presents the known facts and different opinions surrounding the Al Dura affair. His conclusion is that Al Dura could not have been shot dead by Israeli soldiers. He writes:
It now appears that the boy cannot have died in the way reported by most of the world’s media and fervently believed throughout the Islamic world. Whatever happened to him, he was not shot by the Israeli soldiers who were known to be involved in the day’s fighting …The truth about this case will probably never be determined.

September 2003:

Atlantic Monthly publishes letters in response to the Fallows piece.

Charles Enderlin again asserts that he cut scenes of the boy’s death throes:
We do not transform reality. But since some parts of the scene are unbearable, France 2 cut a few seconds from the scene, in accordance with our ethical charter.

Esther Shapira writes:
I’ve always said that I see more significant hints (but no proof) that he [Al Dura] was shot by Palestinians.

Fallows responds that what changed his mind about the incident was “watching footage of the shooting replayed dozens of times.” Fallows states that:
It seemed evident from the footage that at the crucial moments, the father and son had sheltered themselves behind the barrel, relative to the IDF position, and that the boy was further sheltered by the father. They were entirely unsheltered from gunfire coming from other directions, including the known location of Palestinian policemen.

2004

Oct. 22, 2004:

Denis Jeambar, Daniel Leconte, and Luc Rosenzweig are invited to view the full 27 minutes of unedited footage with France 2′s Arlette Chabot. They are informed by France 2′s counsel that cameraman Talal Abu Rahma had already recanted his previous testimony to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. (Note: This is the first that anyone has heard about recanting of the testimony.) They also discover that the overwhelming majority of the footage is not of Al Dura, but of Palestinians staging re-enactments of injuries. There are no scenes of the agony and death throes that Enderlin claims to have edited from the broadcast.

October 2004:

France 2 does not accede to the request of Rosenzweig, Jeambar, and Leconte to meet with and interview Talal Abu Rahma when he is in Paris.

Nov. 18, 2004:

France 2 Director of News Arlette Chabot announces France 2′s intention to file defamation suits against unnamed parties (known in French legal terminology as suits against ‘X’) in response to accusations that the scenes of Al Dura were staged.

Nov. 19, 2004:

France 2 Director of News Arlette Chabot holds a press conference for a select group of journalists in France 2′s offices to back claims by the network that it was on firm ground when it broadcast the Al Dura news report on September 30, 2000. According to AFP, Chabot has attendees screened at the door in order to bar MENA representatives and other critics of the network. Attendees are shown the September 30 France 2 footage and a Reuters film clip taken from a different angle. Also shown are France 2 film clips of Jamal Al Dura in the hospital shortly after the incident, a later film of Al Dura revealing his scars to the camera, and film of a child in the morgue said to be Mohammed Al Dura .

Nov. 25, 2004:

Roland Blum, French Member of Parliament, writes to the Minister of Communications requesting an investigation of France 2′s evidence that Israeli soldiers shot and killed Mohammed Al Dura.

Nov. 26, 2004:

Writing in Wall Street Journal Europe, Stephane Juffa of MENA states that the affair is “nothing but a hoax.”

Dec. 7, 2004:

Following a complaint by Serge Farnel, the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA) – an administrative authority over audiovisual media whose councillors are appointed by the French government – meet to discuss complaints about France 2′s handling of the September 30, 2000 newscast of Al Dura. Its recommendations include Checking the veracity of information to be broadcast or, in case of uncertainty, presenting it as tentative and quoting its source and date; In the event of broadcasting inaccurate information, correcting it as soon as possible under comparable conditions of exposure

2005

Jan. 25, 2005:

Following its rejection by Le Monde opinion page editor Sylvan Cypel, Le Figaro publishes an op-ed by Jeambar and Leconte. Recalling Enderlin’s claim about having cut “unbearable” footage of the child’s agony, the journalists note:
This famous “agony” that Enderlin affirmed having caught in a montage does not exist.
And that:
nothing could enable [Enderlin] to affirm that [Al Dura] is dead and even less that he was killed by Israeli soldiers.
According to the two journalists, the geography of the area “would incriminate instead one of the Palestinian bullets.” They explain that France 2′s experts acknowledged that “we’ll never know where the gunfire came from.” However, they distance themselves from MENA’s claim that Al Dura’s death was a staged event, stating that they do not have the evidence to support this claim.

Jan. 27, 2005:

Enderlin responds in Le Figaro, accusing MENA of leading a defamatory campaign against him and France 2 over the past 4 years. He explains his reasons for stating that Al Dura was killed Israeli fire:
a) this is what Talal Abu Rahma told him and he had full confidence in his cameraman
b) the IDF did not initiate a joint investigation with France 2, nor did the IDF spokesman’s office respond to the network’s proposal to launch a joint investigation into the matter
c) The image corresponded to the greater reality of the situation, “not only in Gaza, but in the West Bank.”

Feb. 1, 2005:

Jeambar and Leconte are interviewed on French radio station RCJ. The journalists explain that the scene of Mohammed Al Dura and his father were completely out of context with the rest of the film. They wonder about the narrator’s perspective from a journalistic point of view. They describe 24 out of the 27 minutes of France 2′s rushes (raw footage) as being comprised of staged events — i.e. Palestinian boys looking at the camera, pretending to fall and getting up to dash off when they see that nothing is happening, and ambulances that come and go evacuating people who have no injuries. They also raise questions about the lack of blood on Jamal Al Dura’s T-shirt.

Feb. 6, 2005:

The International Herald Tribune publishes an article describing the controversy within France about the September 30 news report broadcast by France 2. This article is republished the following day in the New York Times.

Feb. 15, 2005:

Cybercast News Service publishes an article by Eva Cahen comprising interviews with the major players in the ongoing controversy.

Feb. 21, 2005:

MENA criticizes Jeambar and Leconte for distancing themselves from MENA’s thesis that the Al Dura death was a hoax, staged by the Palestinians. Stephane Juffa labels this approach the “third way”. Juffa criticizes it as “an intellectual fabrication that chooses from among the conclusions of our inquiry — rather like in a self-service — and claims to offer a sort of compromise. A compromise that is somewhere between the ‘truth too far’ for the French implicated in the staging and the theory — that has been proven to be indefensible — of the assassination of Mohammed by the Israeli army. Distinguishing themselves from those who persist in their denial, and who devote much of their energy to denigrating or insulting our journalists, the partisans of the third way today assert that they cannot take a stand regarding the question of the staging, while accepting the idea that the report broadcasted by FR2 is replete with serious professional errors committed by its authors.”

April 20, 2005:

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Moshe Ya’alon says of Al Dura: “One hundred percent he was not hit by IDF gunfire. He was apparently shot by a Palestinian police officer.”

September, 2005:

Nidra Poller summarizes the Al Dura affair — France 2′s deceptive misreporting and cover-up — and questions the role played by government-owned France 2 and consequently the French government itself in initiating and spreading “this atrocious calumny, whose repercussions are with us to this day.”

October 12, 2005:

France 2 public relations representatives send out an e-mail defending the network’s role in reporting on Mohammed Al Dura and falsely alleging that an “authoritative American opinion” by the US government “discredits” the IDF investigation concluding that Al Dura was not killed by Israeli bullets. (In fact, there was no such US government statement. This is a false characterization of inaccurate and biased testimony by an Amnesty International representative. See “The Al Dura Affair: France 2 Now Lying about Congress Subcommittee Report” )

2006

Sept. 14, 2006:

A defamation lawsuit is brought against Philippe Karsenty by Charles Enderlin, France 2, and Arlette Chabot. This is the first of three trials brought by the French television network against individuals who have accused Enderlin and France 2 of fraudulent reporting in the Al Dura case.

Oct. 19, 2006:

The French court finds in favor of the plaintiffs—France 2 and Enderlin. Karsenty is found guilty of defamation and is fined 1000 euros, court costs of 3000 euro and symbolic damages to the plaintiffs in the amount of 1 euro each. Karsenty is appealing the verdict.

Oct. 24, 2006:

The defamation lawsuit against Pierre Lurçat, a French-born Israeli lawyer and president of a group called Liberty, Democracy and Judaism, takes place at the Palais de Justice. Lurçat’s group is listed as the legal operator of a Web site, Ligue de Defense Juive, which, in 2002, urged its readers to “demonstrate against the lies of France 2″ and award a “Prize for Misinformation” to Charles Enderlin and France 2. Lurçat who lives in Jerusalem is not present at the trial.

Nov. 28, 2006:

The lawsuit against Pierre Lurçat is dismissed on a technicality, namely, insufficient proof that Pierre Lurçat is responsible for the Web site on which the alleged defamatory statements were made.

Nov. 30, 2006:

A defamation lawsuit by France 2 and Enderlin is brought against Charles Gouz, a Parisian physician who posted an Oct. 1, 2002 letter by Stephane Juffa on his blog that included criticism of Charles Enderlin. In fact, the letter by Juffa expressed opposition to the awarding of the Misinformation Prize to Charles Enderlin, but, at the same time, also criticized Enderlin for “serious professional errors in the Al Dura affair,” and affirmed there were “serious presumptions of misinformation” surrounding the Al Dura affair and of the part played France 2 staff. The letter also referred to “brutal and unacceptable obstructions” to demonstrating the truth of what happened. Since France 2 and Enderlin are unable to bring charges against Juffa who publishes in Israel, Gouz serves as a proxy since his Web site is registered in France.

2007

Jan. 18, 2007:

The court passes a “mitigated judgement” against Dr. Gouz. The judge declares Gouz was within his rights in posting an article about “serious professional errors” by Enderlin, and acknowledges that France 2 and its staff have not been transparent in their dealings, showing no willingness to expose the truth. However, the judge rules that Gouz should not have permitted the word “désinformation” (misinformation) to be used on his Web site. Gouz is ordered to pay symbolic damages to the plaintiffs in the amount of 1 Euro and a suspended fine of 1000 Euro.

Sept. 10, 2007:

After seven years of official silence, the IDF finally weighs in on the case. Colonel Shlomi Am-Shalom, deputy commander of the IDF’s Spokesman’s Office, sends a letter to Charles Enderlin disputing his insistence that no Israeli authority— be it Israel’s army or Justice Ministry—has ever questioned the authenticity of France 2′s September 30, 2000 broadcast. The colonel notes that repeated attempts by the IDF to view the raw footage filmed by Abu Rahma were rebuffed and indicates that results of the IDF inquiry analyzing data from the scene ruled out the possibility that the gunfire that apparently harmed the boy and his father was fired by IDF soldiers. The colonel further requests broadcast-quality films of the 27-minutes of raw footage filmed by Talal Abu Rahma and footage he filmed the following day be sent to the IDF by September 15. France 2 does not comply.

Sept. 19, 2007:

The 11th Chamber of the Appeals Court of Paris hears Philippe Karsenty’s appeal of his October 19, 2006 verdict. The presiding appeals judge requests France 2 turn over the raw footage of the incident to the court.

Oct. 1, 2007:

Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center publiciizes a letter written by Danny Seaman, Director of Israel’s Government Press Office (GPO) in response to the law center’s request 9 months earlier to remove Charles Enderlin’s and France 2′s Israeli journalist credentials given mounting evidence that they committed journalistic fraud. Seaman writes that “the creation of the myth of Muhammad al-Dura has caused great damage to the State of Israel” and calls it “an explicit blood libel against the state,” which “caused damage and dozens of dead.” The GPO document concludes that the September 2000 broadcast was staged, indicating that soldiers could not possibly have shot Al-Dura from the angle at which they were standing, that crucial parts of the scene are missing from the video footage provided to major media outlets and that Talal Abu Rahma systematically engaged in the “staging of action scenes” during the violent clashes in Gaza at the beginning of the intifada in 2000. This is the first official document accusing France 2 of journalistic fraud. The Prime Minister’s Office disassociates itself from the GPO director’s letter.

Oct. 3, 2007:

The court issues a court order to France 2 to submit Abu Rahma’s original 27 minutes of footage to the court no later than October 31 for a viewing open to the public on November 14. The case will be heard in full on February 27, 2008.

Nov. 14, 2007:

Enderlin delivers only 18 minutes of the supposed 27 minutes of raw footage. Richard Landes, who in 2003 viewed over 20 minutes of the film in Endelin’s office, testifies that two clearly staged scenes are missing. What is evident is there is minimal footage of Al Dura and that he is still alive at the end of the film, directly contradicting previous claims by Enderlin that much of the film was of the boy’s “death throes” and by cameraman Abu Rahma that he had filmed 27 minutes of Israeli shooting at the boy. This causes audience skepticism about the entire film.

Dec. 12, 2007:

Dr. David Yehuda, an Israeli orthopedic surgeon specializing in microsurgery at Tel Hashomer Hospital, is interviewed on Israel Channel 10 to reveal that the scars displayed by Jamal Al Dura on a film taken after the September 30 incident, were not, as Jamal claimed, inflicted by Israeli fire during the incident, but were the scars from a previous surgery that Yehuda himself had performed. Jamal was severely wounded in a 1992 attack by axe-wielding Palestinian thugs and was treated at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital. The Gazan physicians were unable to repair his right hand which remained paralyzed. He was referred to Dr. Yehuda who, in 1994, reconstructed the tendons in a complex operation. The Israeli physician demonstrates that Jamal’s scars (filmed as “proof” that Israelis had shot and wounded Jamal) were in fact typical of tendon fiber transfer and not of a gunshot wound.

2008

April 24, 2008:

Just weeks before the appeals court is to deliver its judgement on Pilippe Karsenty’s appeal, the French pay television channel Canal+ broadcasts a documentary defending Charles Enderlin/France 2 and impugning Philippe Karsenty. Broadcast on is weekly investigative program, Jeudi Investigation and entitled “Rumeurs, intox: les nouvelles guerres de l’info” (“Rumors, Brainwashing: The New Information Wars”), filmmaker Stéphane Malterre equates Philippe Karsenty’s dissection of the France 2 broadcast and the conclusion that it was staged with the allegations of U.S. “truthers”—who argue that the 9/11 attack in New York was an “inside job” carried out by the U.S. government against its own citizens — and those of anti-Semites who accuse Zionists and Jews of being behind the 9/11 attack. The documentary accuses Karsenty of falsifying information on the internet in order to promote an extremist and radical viewpoint. Karsenty sues for defamation.

May 21, 2008:

The court reverses the lower court’s judgement that found Karsenty guilty of defaming France 2 and Charles Enderlin, concluding that “Philippe Karsenty exercised his right of free criticism in good faith; that, in doing so, he did not overstep the limits of the freedom of expression.” The judgement cites “the contradictory answers given by Charles Enderlin to the questions relating to the editing of the film,”the “inexplicable inconsistencies of the viewable images,” and the “contradictory answers of [cameraman Talal Abu Rahma] on the issue of the sequence of the scenes and the conditions under which they were filmed.”

June 4, 2008:

Hundreds of French journalists – friends and colleagues of Enderlin’s – together with several French “personalities” and internet readers, post a petition of support for Charles Enderlin on the website of the Nouvel Observateur, a weekly magazine. They characterize him as the victim of an “obstinate and hateful campaign to tarnish [his] professional dignity.” They are amazed, the petition states, that the court would “grant the same credibility to a journalist known for his serious and rigorous work who practices his profession under sometimes difficult conditions as to his detractors who are engaged in a campaign of negation and discredit, who ignore the realities of the terrain and who have no experience reporting from a conflict zone.”

June 7-13, 2008:

Several French journalists and personalities break rank with the petition signatories, condemning the petition and/or calling for an investigation. Among these are Figaro columnist Ivan Riofoul and Elie Barnavi, a historian and former Israeli ambassador to France.

July 2, 2008:

The Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF) holds a press conference where it calls on French President Nicolas Sarkozy to establish an independent investigative commission on the Al Dura affair. CRIF’s proposed “independent” commission, however, includes France 2 as well as CRIF itself.

2009

March 4, 2009:

Germany’s ARD public television station broadcasts “The Child, the Death and the Truth,” a documentary by reporters Esther Schapira and Georg M. Hafner. In an interview with Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper about the documentary’s findings, Schapira asserts: “We can’t say for sure today whether or not the film was faked. But one thing is clear — the version of the story that went around the world was certainly not right, even if France 2 still claims it was.” However, she does say there is a “high probability” that the film was faked. A biometric analysis of faces, she says, determined that contrary to what has been claimed the boy filmed at an autopsy and funeral was not Mohammed Al Dura.

2010

June 10, 2010:

The criminal court of Nanterre finds Canal+ and the production company Tac Prsse guilty of slandering Philippe Karsenty in their April 24, 2008 documentary (see above) by suggesting that Karsenty had manipulated facts on his internet site to support the “radical and extremist viewpoint” that Enderlin’s France 2 broadcast about Al Dura was staged. The judges concluded that filmmaker Stephane Malterre had ignored relevant evidence about the Al Dura hoax and demonstrated a lack of objectivity in sullying Karsenty’s reputation.

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